I’ve experienced significantly awesome worship in a number of places and under a variety of leadership styles – from the simple to the elaborate. But one of the common threads through these worship experiences is that is all cases the worship leaders somehow “got out of the way”. But often, churches by their physical arrangement can make this difficult.
My experience: We’d built a beautiful house of worship. It could seat over 300, so it was both large and small. We built a good size platform at the front of the church for the pastor, the altar, the cross, the worship team, even a pianist and a choir (those were the days!) and the projector screen on which we’d project the words to the songs being sung. And, we did it that way because that’s the way it’s always done – right?
And then, after a few Sundays in our new building one of our worship leaders suggested that it might be better if the worship band weren’t on the stage… She asked us why we needed to be at the front. Well, for one thing, we’d just built this large platform with all the cabling and monitor feeds built into it. For another thing…
So we rewired the entire front of the sanctuary, moved off the stage to the side of the auditorium / sanctuary where we were now beside the congregation, at their level, facing them but where we too could see the projector screens and where we weren’t nearly as likely to feel that we were the object of worship… Like God making Eve from Adam’s side, not his head or his feet. In this way they would share a closer intimacy… And then we rested, and it was good.
Here’s some of the reasons that setting up beside the congregation turned out to be a good thing for us:
- Egos could be soothed. And, the congregation isn’t there to watch the worship team
- Avoided the potential (and perhaps inevitable) concert vibe. Got nothing against concerts. I love concerts! Just saying…
- The closer proximity to the congregation created an increased sense of corporate worship and made for an increasingly intimate experience.
- When the worship leader speaks, the congregation can turn to listen and see – which itself is more conversational
- If something untoward happens on the team, it’s not necessarily a distraction to the congregation
- It was easier to bring new worshipers on the team – while avoiding stage fright
- It meant that the band could be physically closer – which was a very nice side effect. Communications and spontaneity was enhanced as a result
- And, oddly, some folks in the congregation like to sit near the band (the music’s louder there), but not in the front rows – so this now is possible (and vice versa of course…)
There’s a list of reasons that setting up ON stage was good:
- Well, it IS more awkward to NOT be on the platform…
- That’s where the wiring is
- The platform looks empty – formless and void…
- If you set up off the platform, it takes up valuable seating space
- If the church is really big, it could be tough (but what a nice problem)
In summary: It’s not physically possible for every church to try this, and I’m not hoping to upset any apple carts, but OUR experience was good, very good. We simply needed to get out of the way.
If you can’t move – or it just isn’t practical – don’t sweat it. But for the benefit of the congregation, remember where the focus is, and worship like David did!
Question for worship leaders: Is there something that you need to do to get out of the way?
God bless you in worship!